Formative Years Fashion: What Films Found Their Way Into My Teen Consciousness and (If I Was Lucky) Closet

As a teen in a rural town, my best friend was our satellite dish. This was the late 80s-early 90s and the movies that beamed into my wood-paneled living room in Malott, Washington indelibly marked me as a teen girl without a misfit pack to call my own. Imagine the 45 minute bus rides twice a day to school, no shopping mall within 2 hours of our town, classmates who I had known since kindergarten, and everyone loved heavy metal while my heart belonged to Robert Smith. It was a misunderstood and angst-ridden few years but I caught glimmers of a life beyond our town in fashion portrayed in the following films.

  1. PRETTY IN PINK (1986)
Be still my heart – clothes, cool pad, best buds and boy troubles.

This was the film that I watched EVERYDAY after school with my sister. Andy was my spirit animal and I wanted to be in her world of cool friends, the ability to sew and her strength to stand up to the rich kids. Mostly her clothes did not wear her and she had no apologies. I also wanted to dress as Duckie because his layering, round glasses and shoes were so great. I did try to emulate his look but it was more of a sad sack of hipster laundry on my frame and peers do not “Try a Little Tenderness” when you are exploring your identity.

I wanted to have Duckie’s fashion sense and to be him/have him like me. Teen years are so dramatic.


The hair alone was a life goal since my hair is full of body and would NEVER be still.

Franny was an idealized dream of the look I longed to achieve. The hair, the tasteful yet eclectic jewelry and the monochromatic wardrobe were the presentation I longed to properly execute but I lacked the funds and there was nowhere in Okanogan County to find these clothes.

3. HEATHERS (1988)

This movie introduced me to the magic of black tights and I searched for a monocle for many, many years just to emulate this look.

Duh. You probably guessed this film would make an appearance because it’s iconic and it’s Winona Ryder in her peak Otherness IT Girl moment. The use of clothing to demonstrate conformity, the dystopian POV of high school and Veronica Sawyer’s outfits were all a part of my cultivated worldview. But wearing black tights in summer months in a place with 100 degree temperatures was not recommended.

4. MODERN GIRLS (1986)

There’s nothing like a look of dismissal from a well-dressed woman.

Margo was aloof and unimpressed – these personality attributes were goals to attain. I loved the boldness of the blue gloves with her outfit during their “wild and crazy night in L.A.” As a socially inept girl who fought her anxiety just dealing with the lunchroom seating at Okanogan High School, I envied her confidence as she maneuvered the various club scenes in L.A.


Yes, bobbed dark hair and bohemian – my teen idolization had a type.

Lulu was a character who hid her identity to be who she was and I thought she had such style. I found her choice in men suspect and wished she would have taken the convertible and drove far, far away.

6. CAN’T BUY ME LOVE (1987)

The one blonde on my list!

Cindy Mancini dressed differently than the other girls in her school and she let her style speak for itself. Although I was not a fan of the suede dress that caused her to get involved with the lawn boy. Her hair also shamed my out-of control-follicles no matter how much Dippity Do I lathered in it. (For those who are too young to get this reference, imagine green slime you pay for to willing put on your hair.)

As a person who is now doubled in age, I no longer look to others to emulate but I appreciate these screen queens for guiding me on a journey of sartorial self discovery.

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